Kuantan residents get nod to challenge minister’s Lynas greenlight

The Malaysian Insider
By Debra Chong
Assistant News Editor
August 28, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — Five Kuantan residents made headway today in their bid to stop Lynas Corp from firing up its controversial rare earth plant here after they got the High Court’s nod to challenge the science, technology and innovation minister’s decision to award a temporary operating licence (TOL) to the Australian miner. Kuantan High Court judge Mariana Yahya delivered the decision in her chambers when their case was up for a judicial review today.

“We expected the legal representatives from the Attorney-General’s Chamber to raise an objection to our application but instead they consented.

“This means we get to proceed with the judicial review,” Tan Bun Teet, one of the five applicants, told The Malaysian Insider today.

He said the residents wanted a judicial review of the minister’s decision against revoking the TOL awarded in January this year because they believe it to be biased in favour of the Sydney-based company and had failed to take into consideration the expert recommendations made by the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after it looked into the project last year.

Tan, who heads a grassroots movement opposing the rare earth refinery called Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL), said the minister had not complied fully with the IAEA’s recommendations, or get a detailed environmental impact assessment report or a fresh radiological impact assessment from the mining giant that must be approved by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) before granting a licence to the plant to start operations.

“The minister did not comply with the provision in the Atomic Licensing Act 1984,” Tan told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.

He added that Lynas has yet to provide details of its radioactive waste disposal management plans even after the IAEA recommendation report last year.

“We are asking the court to make a declaration that the minister acted in excess of his jurisdiction and that the minister’s decision to grant the TOL has no effect.

“We are also asking for a declaration that the minister exhibited a real likelihood of bias in favour of LAMP and therefore ought not to have adjudicated on any appeal against the decision of AELB to grant the TOL for LAMP,” he said, referring to the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant located some 20km north of the Pahang capital in the Gebeng industrial site.

He said the residents also wanted the court stay the project starting up pending the outcome of the judicial review.

Apart from Tan, the other residents who applied for the judicial review are Ismail Abu Bakar, Tan Ah Meng, Syed Talib Syed Sulaiman and Hasimah Ramli.

Putrajaya has approved the RM2.5 billion plant but said it had to fulfil all conditions before it can start operations.

Lynas has cleared its final major hurdle to getting the TOL after a parliamentary select committee (PSC) called for the miner’s licence to be issued as “scientific facts” showed that its plant is safe.

The positive feedback tabled in the PSC report came just four days after the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry dismissed an appeal against the plant by residents living nearby and instead imposed two conditions that Lynas says it will have no problems satisfying.

Lynas had said in April that delays in obtaining the licence for its facility, which was initially approved in January, may have “very serious consequences” for the RM80 billion worth of rare earth orders already received as it is “sold out for the next 10 years.

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